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Men’s water polo defeats Pacific following dominant first-half performance

Graduate student attacker Nicolas Saveljic posted a hat trick to lead No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo in scoring Sunday as the blue and gold conquered Pacific behind a 7-1 halftime lead. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)

Men's Water Polo


No. 1 UCLA13
No. 7 Pacific8

By Kyle Boal

Oct. 18, 2021 2:42 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 20 at 10:46 p.m.

The Bruins picked up a five-goal win despite losing the second half.

No. 1 UCLA men’s water polo (15-1, 1-0 MPSF) defeated No. 7 Pacific (7-8, 2-0 GCC) at Chris Kjeldsen Aquatics Complex 13-8 on Sunday after claiming a 7-1 halftime lead. The Tigers outscored the Bruins 5-3 in the third quarter but never came within four goals of the blue and gold after the second period.

“(Pacific) at the end of the day is a really, really good team,” said coach Adam Wright. “That’s a really good win on the road. There’s a lot of positives to take from it, but we’ve got to get better as far as remaining consistent no matter what the score is. That third quarter letdown shows we’ve got to get better.”

UCLA jumped out to a 3-0 advantage, shutting out its opponent in the first quarter for the second time this season. The Bruins’ goal differential in the first quarter is the lowest of any of the four stanzas.

Redshirt senior utility Felix Brozyna-Vilim netted the first of five UCLA power-play goals to open the game before graduate student attacker Nicolas Saveljic followed up with two goals of his own. In the second quarter, four different Bruins scored en route to a 4-1 advantage in the period.

The Tigers, on the other hand, missed their first 11 attempts and ended the first half shooting 1-of-16 from the pool.

Wright said his team’s first-half performance was the best so far this season.

“The first half, without a doubt, was the best intensity that we’ve had on the defensive end,” Wright said. “Our counter structure, our frontcourt structure, it was a big positive. We challenged the guys at halftime to not let the score dictate how we come out. Unfortunately, we didn’t do a great job there.”

Despite not winning a single sprint to start a quarter in the game, UCLA scored the first goal of the second half as freshman attacker Chase Dodd converted the team’s only penalty shot of the match. However, Pacific would score four of the next five goals.

Saveljic, who led the Bruins in scoring Sunday with a hat trick, said his team works on consistency every day.

“Consistency is a part of our mindset,” Saveljic said. “We approach every single training like it is a game from Monday to Friday. Then whenever the weekend comes with the game, it’s still no different than practice. Repetition creates habits.”

Improving both its power play and shooting percentages from its last meeting with Pacific on Sept. 25, UCLA finished the game above 50% in both categories. Sophomore attacker Hayden Nightingale said his team’s preparation is because of Wright’s efforts.

“We go into every day knowing exactly what to do, very well prepared,” Nightingale said. “It just comes down to us executing what Adam’s telling us to do. He’s very thorough, very caring and always has a very high expectation for us and pushes us to reach that.”

Wright said despite getting outscored in the third quarter, he was happy with his team’s performance.

“I really, really loved our approach on the defensive end, our communication was completely different,” Wright said. “We’re going in the right direction. We got to keep going here.”

UCLA will host No. 9 Pepperdine at Spieker Aquatics Center for the team’s Senior Day on Oct. 24.

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Kyle Boal | Sports senior staff
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the football, men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
Boal is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the football, men's water polo and swim & dive beats. He was an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. Boal was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats.
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